According to ehotelat, the Italianizing influence which was accentuated above all after the trip of Sá de Miranda (1485-1558) to Italy, in 1526, and the influence of the sea, which took place especially during the reigns of John II and Emmanuel I, under the mirage of India, are the components of the Portuguese sixteenth century, which is the most original era of classical literature, although not the most perfect and complete from a strictly artistic point of view. Spanish classicism flaunts a continental character, is a child of the land of Castile, and presents a logical development in all its extension; Portuguese classicism, on the other hand, with its “oceanic” character, broke halfway, in 1580, when the intense national life was satisfied in the Castilian annexation (1580-1640) and soft and feeble forces spread over the Portuguese spirit. The sixteenth century cooperated in laying the foundations of modern novellistics, with Bernardim Ribeiro (1482-1552), and of peninsular poetic theater with Gil Vicente. Create the epic of navigation with Os Lusiadas (1572) by Camões (1524-1580), manages to acclimate Petrarch’s lyricism and bucolism, and gives rise to an exuberant and original colonial historiography, with João de Barros (1496? -1570), Diogo do Couto (1542 -1616) and others, alongside very lively genres, which could be assimilated to literature, such as the narratives of shipwrecks, the itineraries of land and sea voyages, etc. The sec. XVI threw seeds, which did not bear fruit, or only partially fructified. The main cause of this fruitlessness is probably to be found in the same psychological fatigue which followed such a prodigious activity; from this inertia derived the lack of resistance to Philip II, when he wanted to absorb the Portuguese crown.
In the second classical age the poetic genres decay, but prose rises to greater dignity, with Antonio Vieira (1608-1697), Luiz de Sousa (1555? -1632), Freire de Andrade, Francisco Manuel de Mello, Manuel Bernardes, etc. At the beginning of the century XVIII a promising flowering of critical spirit announces new aspirations, which immediately determine the restoration of historiography and, at a distance, the Arcadia Lusitana, an academy founded by Antonio Diniz (1731-1799), which promotes the reaction to gongorism and Spanish influence, and which advocates the return to poetic genres.
In these three classical centuries, in prosperity as in adversity, Portugal always maintained a high historical awareness, to which literature gave adequate artistic expression. The restoration of independence in 1640 brought about a literary cycle in historiography, political jurisprudence, poetry and enlightened prophecy; the deposition of King Alfonso VI suggested another cycle of narratives, historical polemics and memorials. The Roman politics of John VI produced an abundant nucleus of works of ecclesiastical history, with a renewal of methods and a notable increase in the auxiliary disciplines of historiography: it was the movement of the Academia Real da Historia Portuguesa. The administration of Pombal, with its dramatic aspects, created a wealth of political literature, panegyric of that statesman, in prose and verse, and invectives and condemnation of his work, following his fall. The difficulties of the first quarter of the century. XIX, with the French invasions, the English abuses, the flight of the royal family for Brazil, the revolution of 1820, the whole crisis determined following the penetration of liberalism inspired a journalistic literature, of pamphlets, and promoted a new genre, parliamentary eloquence. In Brazil, the struggles with the Dutch and the French, the penetration of the territory by the bandairantes explorers of the forest, the search for mines and the Brazilian reign of John VI gave substance to a lively literary production, in which, through the local chronicle and the formal imitation of the aesthetic models in force in the metropolis, the sentiment of homeland and gratitude to nature, generous with so many riches. Writers and poets always cooperated in the nationalistic conspiracies of 1789 and 1817, and then in the preparation of independence, so that literature was there the intermediary of nationalism, in the creation and definition of which the group of poets of Minas Geraes, of the end of the century XVIII, almost all ended tragically. From Portuguese literature sprouts in the century. XVIII another literature, the Brazilian, which is expressed in the same language, but that it deals with moral, social and political problems different from those that worry the ancient motherland; and which idealizes another nature and is imbued with a feeling of constructive force, impetuous and tenacious, more solicitous in preparing a future than in restoring or even venerating a glorious past. The separation of this overseas branch took place during the last phase of classicism when the reforming optimists of Arcadia Lusitana infused new energy with the return of French imitation. The cult of extinct Hellenic-Roman beauty was not so absorbing as to close the imagination and sensitivity of the Arcadian poets to the charms and surprises of American exoticism. Antonio Diniz, the artist most tenaciously linked to the neoclassicism of Arcadia, Metamorphoses, which are like the creation of a Brazilian mythological poetic. Already in the Romantic age, in fact, Gomes de Amorim (1827-1892) drew more emotion from this Americanism, even at the cost of losing balance and good taste. Now this fruitful development would suffice to demonstrate that literary education does not always weaken the feeling of nature nor always exhaust the creative imagination. Academism itself, this tiring and heavy fruit, center of “culteranism” and subtleties, deserves to be considered with indulgence, since if in Portugal it represented the extreme decadence of lyrical inspiration, in the American continent it was fruitful for incipient intellectual life and for literary nationalism. After all, also in Portugal the contagion of poetic conceptuality and obscurity, the manner of Góngora, served as nourishment only to mediocre spirits and left the field free to create the prose of art and to ennoble it with a greater dialectical and discursive capacity. This was the particular work of the great spirits of the century. XVII, who, with the exception of Rodrigues Lobo (1580-1622), who was also a poet, were only prose masters.
In the second and third ages of classicism travel literature decays, because their interest and novelty wanes; gradually this travel literature, especially those of the East and Ethiopia, is concentrated in the hands of the missionaries of the Society of Jesus, who naturally prefer the aspect of catechetical history; nevertheless erudition is established, bibliography is founded, linguistic studies are begun, the foundations of the auxiliary sciences of historiography, epigraphy, diplomatics, chronology are laid; in the Academia Real das sciencias, the first experiences in the history of Portuguese law and social history, demography, literary criticism with a historical spirit are attempted; journalism is founded.